The Magic Highway


Jeff was featured in a book about the history of pop music in the Yorkshire region of the UK. Jeff was born and raised in the area and still lives there today.

yorkshire pop bookA BOOK detailing the history of pop music originating from the Yorkshire area of the UK was released in October 2009.
   With a multitude of pop stars from the region dating back over 50 years to the early days of rock 'n' roll right through to punk, dance, glam, indie, electronic and other genres, music coming out of Yorkshire has often been ground-breaking, inspirational, award-winning and record-breaking.
   One of the performers featured in the book is of course Christie, the first local band to hit number 1 in the charts.
   Other artists sharing the limelight include Ronnie Hilton, Joe Cocker, David Coverdale, Jarvis Cocker, Mel B, Human League, Be Bop Deluxe, ABC, Wedding Present, Utah Saints, Kaiser Chiefs and The Arctic Monkeys.
   The book, I'll Go To T'Foot Of Our Stage: The Story of Yorkshire Pop Music, is a journey through the years of pop pioneers, unsung heroes, one-hit wonders, and oh-so-nearlys, ending with the current proud crop of Yorkshire success stories.
   The 250-page paperback was compiled by Craig Ferguson, and is available at

Here are Jeff's answers to questions posed by the book's author.

"I was lucky from an early age that I knew that I wanted to be a musician - I wasn't bothered about being famous.
   I knew about the jazz and the be-bop musicians playing, and Lonnie Donegan, and the skiffle thing was very influential, it just looked like a great thing to do for a living. It was just a matter of deciding what kind of music I wanted to play. But I knew that I didn't want to be a classical musician because that's what my parents/mum 'steered me into'. It was a natural rebellion thing, and in those days rock'n'roll was the ultimate rebellion!
   Funny thing is that all the experience I got from the classical training stood me in good stead. It gave me a head start when I picked up the guitar."
   You've got to remember that young kids like me thought that writing songs was a very specialised skill until the Beatles came along.
   Most Leeds bands in the pre-Beatles 60s, all good bands that they were, had tried to sound like the Shadows. My band the Tremmers were similar - but they'd gone as far as they could.
   I saw the Beatles do Love Me Do, on Granada's 'Scene at 6.30' and I realised that we had to change direction. I thought the Beatles were quite good, but I didn't get it straight away. Once I did, I realised we had to change - we had to get a record deal, that was the way forward.
   There's a great saying - don't pray for the break, pray that when the break comes, you're ready for it. Apart from learning your craft, it's about knowing how to handle the success and fame when it comes along."

   "We'd failed one record audition because we didn't do our own stuff only covers. That was a pivotal moment because we realised that someone was going to have to start writing songs. I didn't even know if I could write songs at that point.
   I started learning the craft of song writing and aspired to be a good one. I'm still trying.
   I was the engine of the band, making people turn up for rehearsals and do things right - that's probably why I carried on driving things through and got success in the end, because I had tunnel vision.
   There were so many places to play in those days, so there was a scene.
   We were arguably the top group in Leeds at the time with the Dawnbreakers who I suppose were our big rivals. They took my bass player and they got a record deal first but they folded when it didn't happen for them. We kept going.
   I kept sending demos down to our agent Dru Harvey in London until finally he heard the song and said, that's the single. Just One More Chance (originally titled 'If I Tried') created a buzz in London and that's how we got on the Hendrix tour.
   With Great Train Robbery, I've been told that BBC wouldn't play that because it was too political. It was a fictitious lyric about a train being held up in America - you can get a song out of anything if you try!
   Andrew Loog Oldham produced it and it was supposed to go out on his Immediate label, which carried a great deal of kudos. For some reason - still don't know why - he created a label called Instant and put it out on that."

   "The group had had enough and I just couldn't keep everyone together. We were all fed up about the money situation - the lack of it. It's like being married to three or four people and you can only be democratic to a point.
   There was always some jealousy and resentment even without money problems. It's just human nature.
   I can't remember whose actual idea it was to do the Yorkshite TV documentary Death of a Pop Group. We'd been on Calendar and played the YTV Christmas party in the past. Whoever it was, they just realised they had a ready- made TV program there.
   It was a reflection of the frustration we felt - having had two great records out and been on this major tour with Hendrix and all those other bands, we felt let down. The general feeling around us was, this is a great band, why haven't they made it when others have.
   The irony was in getting profile that any band would have killed for.
   It was too late - the band finally broke up. At the end of the documentary, the reporter asked what each member was going to do now and I just said I was going to keep going, trying to break through. I wasn't sure how. It had been my life that band, mutating out of different bands since I was 13. I was tired of all the stuff that goes on when you're in a band. But I wasn't going to give up.
   I decided I was just going to keep writing. By that time I knew a lot of the big names - I'd worked with them. And in those days you could still get to them without too much trouble. There was no point taking songs to bands who wrote their own material but there were still plenty who didn't.
   Even the fact that Batley Variety Club was just down the road was good - there was no problem getting backstage to talk to the artists such as Gene Pitney and Roy Orbison.
   And that's how I eventually broke through around two and a half years later. I was writing during the day and playing a cabaret club in town at night, all the time writing better songs. I was really quite driven.
   I sometimes wrote with specific people in mind; I wrote a song for the Tremeloes called Tomorrow Night, which was very 'them'. They said it was exactly what they were trying to get away from. And so I played my tape of other songs and they started to look at their watches. The tape came to Yellow River - they started harmonising along with it and that was it. They wanted the song.
   They even recorded the backing track but for whatever reason, they decided to pass in the end. They obviously regretted that decision because it could have extended their chart career by years.
   But by that time, their publicist Brian Longley had heard my demo and decided that this was a hit record … "what was wrong with me singing it myself?" The Tremeloes had just followed my original basic arrangement of the song, and I could sing it fine. Brian became my manager.
   I was writing around three songs a week - that was my most prolific period and I was experimenting with different styles - Yellow River was part of my swamp /country rock stuff period. It came before Creedence Clearwater Revival.
   Tom Jones's manager Gordon Mills wanted to manage me, because I hadn't actually signed a contract yet. But I liked Brian, he believed in me. But Gordon Mills wanted me to delay my release because he was managing a guy called Leapy Lee who was going to put out a version of Yellow River.

Yellow River spent three weeks at the top of the UK charts (May 30, June 6 and June 13, 1970)

   Yellow River's been covered by REM and Elton John amongst many others. I'm recognised as a songwriter now, but at the time some people looked down their noses at singles bands because there was an attitude that you couldn't be serious unless you were doing albums.
   I'd written this song that everyone in London thought was going to be a hit and I didn't have a band. Brian introduced me to two guys, Mike Blakely, brother of Alan from the Tremeloes, and Vic Elmes, and we went on the road with that line-up for a while.
   It went to number one in the UK and in 26 other countries and got to Number 6 in the states. It earned many gold discs when gold meant a million sales- some days Yellow River was selling 80,000 copies a day!
   This was followed by two more international hits, San Bernadino and Iron Horse, and constant global touring till 1975.
   I took a 15-year break and reformed the band with new personnel in 1990 and am still performing, and releasing records.
   Yellow River was number one in 26 other countries apart from the UK and let's put it
this way, a lot of other people got rich. I really don't know where the money went. I didn't even know about Yellow Pages using Yellow River for their ad campaigns until it was already running. They didn't even need permission from me and it ran for a long time.
   I'd achieved my dream, to have my music played all over the world on radio, TV etc as well as performing my songs on a global platform.
   My original dream as a school kid was to be a professional musician and that's what I'm still doing. I'm thankful for that. It gives me great satisfaction and is very heart warming to know that thousands of people around the world still tell me how happy my songs have made them, and continue to do so through internet sites such as YouTube, etc. That means a lot to me."